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With the war in Ukraine raging for more than six months, law firms across the region have reported increased workloads in corporate and M&A, tax, employment, immigration law, and inquiries on the sanctions regimes in relevant jurisdictions, noting that companies from Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus are variously looking for a new home. Whether to avoid sanctions or escape the war, those companies consider a variety of factors in determining where to go.

2018 saw the introduction of the Romanian movie production cash rebate system and a subsequent uptick in movie productions seeking to develop in Romania. The ambitiously outlined rebate system seemed quite appealing, initially. However, over the past three years, it failed to live up to its original goals.

The legal landscape has changed remarkably since 2008 when I made the jump from being an in-house lawyer at the Central Bank of Albania to a legal associate at a law firm. At the time, for a lawyer working in two small-sized non-EU countries such as Albania and Kosovo, work was predominantly focused on the local markets, with no or little exposure to international activities. This started to change as the CEE region became more attractive to foreign investors, who were looking at opportunities often spread across several countries. The legal work in M&A, privatization processes, and energy investments often involved teams from various law firms, both in CEE and in Western Europe or the US, and was my gateway to gaining knowledge of the regional market and understanding the space for growth there.

On June 23, 2022, CEE Legal Matters reported that Eversheds Sutherland entered the Bulgarian market by combining with Sofia-based "long-standing relationship firm" Tsvetkova Bebov & Partners. We spoke with the Bulgarian firm’s Co-Managing Partners Irina Tsvetkova and Nikolay Bebov to learn more about the tie-up and their plans going forward.

The QuickLegal online marketplace was launched in 2021 in Romania, aiming to provide answers to legal questions for individuals and small businesses by effortlessly connecting them with relevant lawyers. CEE Legal Matters spoke with two of QuickLegal’s three Co-Founders – Iulia Caizer and Luminita Busuricu – to learn more about their project, progress, and plans.

With the Public Offering Act already being amended this year, two other important pieces of legislation are likely to impact capital markets in Poland in 2022 – the amendments to the Commercial Companies Code and the Crowdfunding Regulations.

The legacy of COVID-19 looms large over the financial situation of many businesses across Poland. In order to stave off the pandemic’s impact, a new type of restructuring was introduced into the Polish legal system – the simplified restructuring procedure. Businesses affected by the crisis were quick to use this solution, particularly because of its informal nature and the possibility of getting relatively strong (though temporary) protection from creditors, as well as the time necessary to restructure their business.

One might have hoped that, with the pandemic fading, the real estate market was bound to bounce back in 2022, despite interest rates rising since October 2021. And bounce back it did, at least in the first quarter, when investments in commercial real estate reached EUR 1.7 billion, including Google’s landmark acquisition of a Warsaw office building for nearly EUR 600 million. The Russian aggression against Ukraine, coupled with growing cost pressures, created the current market conditions that will continue to shape the CEE real estate market for the foreseeable future.

The Polish media market finds itself in an interesting position. Following a streak of market moves and reshufflings, the media landscape seems to have, to an extent, polarized. To get an insight into the market ins and outs, as well as expectations for the future, we reached out to Wiercinski Kwiecinski Baehr Partner Agnieszka Wiercinska-Kruzewska.

On January 1, 2022, a “historic tax reform” – as referred to by the Polish government – came into force, with major changes implemented into Poland’s tax system. Just a few months later, another tax reform package, now known as the Polish Deal 2.0, was introduced. We spoke with Penteris Head of Tax Artur Plutowski and PwC Legal Partner Katarzyna Komorowska to learn what was the driving force behind the update and how it will impact the business sector in Poland.

The Times They Are a-Changin’ – such a description is more than appropriate for the municipality-developer relationship in recent months in the Czech Republic. The adoption of a new construction code promises to bring fresh wind into development projects and improve the relationships between these two major players. This is most likely to happen thanks to the re-introduction of the so-called planning agreements into the Czech legal environment. Although already recognized and used in the past, this new instrument is getting more and more noticed by Czech municipalities, most of all by the City of Prague, which, on January 27, 2022, adopted the brand-new Guidelines on the Investor Participation in Urban Development, the application of which is done through planning agreements.

Russia’s military aggression in Ukraine and the subsequent wave of refugees has been a new challenge for all European countries – and the Czech Republic is no different. A very low unemployment rate and a shortage of workers is a long-standing problem in Czechia and, thus, this new situation brings not only challenges but also opportunities. There have been more job openings than workers in the Czech economy since 2018 and, in 2021, the Labour Office recorded about 350,000 job openings. This situation slowed growth in the Czech economy and, thus, accepting Ukrainian refugees happens to be not only a moral obligation but also in the country’s best interest and an opportunity for future growth.

On May 10, 2022, the European Commission adopted the new Vertical Block Exemption Regulation (VBER) accompanied by the new Vertical Guidelines (Guidelines), which entered into force on June 1, 2022. We spoke with several Czech competition experts to understand how these updates will influence the day-to-day business activities in the vertical agreements area.

Life Sciences R&D has consistently been touted as one of the Czech government’s top priorities – and the markets and investors have not been indifferent. We reached out to several experts to check up on the overall health of life sciences R&D in the Czech Republic and learn how that priority translates into practice.

The sixth package of European Union sanctions imposed on Russia is a widely discussed topic, yet the overall levels of preparedness to adopt the associated energy import ban varies from one country to another. Indeed, with Russian oil and gas exports being such a dominant source of energy for a number of European countries, it remains to be seen how all of them adapt to the change. To gain insight into how certain EU member states and non-EU countries are (likely) to fare in the immediate wake of the ban, we reached out to legal professionals from Turkey, Poland, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, and Moldova.